26.1.12

WHATBY? (Part Three)

NOTE TO NEW READERS:


This is the third instalment in an unexpected trilogy of blog-posts. If you wish, you can read the first and second parts here - or you simply read from here and have done with it. You may wish to better spend your time looking at pictures of cats


In which case - you are an idiot. Go away. I don't want you looking at my page.


This will be my final word on Whitby and how I came to visit the place in unusual circumstances, as I say, I didn't mean for this to become a trilogy. I'm not George Lucas. Although, that said, I am spreading one small story out over three chapters. But at least I don't pretend to have another three prequels floating around to cash in on the firsts runaway success....


If you look to the column on your left you'll see I have 115 prequels.


Which, if anything, makes me even more evil than George Lucas.


As before, anything highlighted in BLUE links to another page or site.
Anything highlighted in orange is simply for effect.


You may wish to run away now....


I awoke the next day with a very, very dry throat.

At the suggestion of the man who may or may not have been the landlord of the B&B I had left the wall heater on all night and that, combined with the bellyful of Real Ale I had consumed, I was thoroughly dehydrated. Even so, I was happy. At least I had gone to bloody sleep for the first time in ages!

Three cups of tea later and I was ready to have my complimentary Full English breakfast. As I walked down the four flights of stairs I realised that my legs were incredibly stiff, that's because Whitby is built on a series of hills and cliffs. I had walked miles and miles in my first day, along the two harbour walls, around both cliffs, up and down the town with a stupid small suitcase that I resolutely refuse to drag behind me in fear of being mistaken for Paris Hilton.

Which happens a lot more than you would credit it.
(I think it's because we're both aesthetically challenged and got no tits to speak of...)

I walked into the breakfast room and saw at once why my B&B had been described as "music-themed". There were about a dozen classic album covers in frames on the wall and a small portable CD player playing the soundtrack to the film "Dreamgirls".

I also had to move an acoustic guitar out of the way so I could pull my chair out and there was a clarinet on the table.

The very jolly landlady came in and took my breakfast order ("Breakfast. Please.") and I realised I was the ONLY guest in the B&B. There wasn't a single other sound apart from bacon frying... and Jennifer Hudson singing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going".

It was as the landlady brought in my breakfast that I had to inform her that I had to leave a day earlier than planned. She looked crestfallen. Looking back I see how heartless this may have seemed, but I just wanted to inform her at the earliest opportunity in case any other insomniac nutballs needed a room on a Saturday night in a small Northern fishing village.

It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying myself, I was, it's just that... well....
THERE ARE NO TRAINS IN OR OUT OF WHITBY ON A SUNDAY.



NONE.


NOT UNTIL SUMMER 2012!

Which meant that tonight would be my last night staying at the B&B, and my only stupid-suitcase-free day.

Happily, the landlady fully understood my predicament and I wasn't charged for the third night, which I suppose as a standing-agreement she would have been within her rights to do. I wolfed down my breakfast and a whole jug of fresh orange, tripped over a bodhran by the doorway, and hobbled the four flights back to my room to get ready for a whole day of Whitbying.

It was a much greyer day than the previous one and so I packed a scarf gloves and spare hat in my manbag (having already lost one woolly hat the night before staggering between ale houses).

Again there was absolutely no-one else around and I was beginning to feel like I was in the Holiday Special edition of 28 Days Later. On a whim I decided to turn left at the bottom of the hill and walk through a park.


This was probably the second best decision I made in my whole visit.


The park was on yet another steep hill and once again there was no-one to share it with. The sun was struggling to peek at the wonderful landscaping and enormous, abandoned children's play area but did manage a tiny burst as I walked around the back of the Pannett Art Gallery, which also housed Whitby Museum. I walked on, but something made me think "I may as well pop in as I'm here..."

So I went in.


This was definitely the best decision I made in my whole visit.


A large unpretentious square building, Whitby Museum is one of the finest buildings I have ever entered. Unlike most modern museums who like to boast about their wide spaces and interactivity, which masks the fact that there are only a handful of interesting artifacts in their museums, the Whitby collection has NO interactivity and has over 80,000 artifacts all housed in one massive cramped room.


And what artifacts!

The World's Largest Complete Ichthyosaur Skeleton! Civil War Muskets! A North American Totem Pole! Ships In  Bottles! Ships In Lightbulbs! Ornamental Carved Whale's Teeth! Samurai Armour! A Narwhal Skeleton!


Whaleskin Dolls! The Ripley Cabinet! Case Upon Case Of Stuffed Animals! A Genuine Pirate Treasure Chest! Snake-headed Fossils! The World's First Crow's Nest! Whaling Aparatus!

Coconut-Matting Armour Trousers From Micronesia!!


.....THE HAND OF GLORY!!!




These are all genuine artifacts. 


If the makers of Being John Malkovich wanted to make a sequel called Being Vic Reeves they could film the whole thing in this room. It was the most compact, fascinating, terrifying, illuminating room I've ever paid four quid to enter. I was there for two and a half hours and barely scratched the surface.

You should go and have a look.

There was a definite pattern developing among the collection too, many of the items had been donated during the First and Second World Wars when Whitby was under heavy bombardment. Presumably, as people took only what was necessary from their homes they looked around and thought "Do I really need that North American totem pole that great granddad was given by the Navajo? I'll give it to the Museum..."

It's quite clear that the people of Whitby brought back some weird and wonderful stuff on their travels.

What a room!

I wandered into town and as I did so I checked all the drunken tweets I'd done the night before. One from @Sturdygirl0803 suggested I pick up a copy of the local paper as they had a promotion on. Good idea, it would also let me know what the locals do on a Friday night. Apart from offering to bum passers-by (see last post).

I went to the offices of the Whitby Gazette and was given a newspaper, two blue balloons, a Whitby Gazette pen, a block of some sticky fruitcake called Yorkshire Brack and a bag of Whitby scampi. 


All for 80p!! 

It was a bit overwhelming! I wasn't sure about the scampi as I was about to take the legendary 199 steps to St Mary's Church and didn't really fancy the idea of walking around with a bag of scampi on me for the rest of the day. Also, I wasn't going back until Saturday afternoon. 

Was I supposed to leave a bag of scampi in my room? With the radiator on full?

I decided to decline the kind offer and, turning, around, felt the white-hot scowls of Whitby pensioners as they collectively projected - "Who the hell is this? Whitby scampi not good enough, eh? Won't fit in your handbag? You make me ill..."

That's all I need. I'd already been getting funny looks for being the only person walking around town without either a walking stick or a small dog in a tartan waistcoat...
In hindsight I should have accepted and thrown the bag among the pensioners just to watch them fight it out for delicious frozen seafood, instead I slunked out of the office and headed towards St Mary's.


One of Whitby's most famous landmarks, St Mary's church is possibly the least accessible church in Britain but the churchyard has some spectacular views. It is also, as legend has it, the place where Dracula roams in the guise of a black dog. He wasn't there when I went.

As I say, no fucker was.


Behind St Mary's is the impressive Whitby Abbey. 

I imagine. 

Not that I imagine it is located there, after all, it's a difficult thing to try and hide is a large medieval Abbey. 

No, I imagine it is impressive. I couldn't say for sure as the fucking place was shut.

After walking up 199 steps up a cliff and through a supposedly haunted graveyard I found that Whitby cocking Abbey was closed and only open at weekends.

HOW CAN A CHUFFING RUIN BE SHUT??

YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST PUT A BLOODY SIGN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CHUFFING HILL!!!
Anyway, I took a few pics through a gap in the fence and went for lunch in the Quayside at a place called The Marine, and had the best seafood lunch I've ever eaten. Thoroughly recommended.


After a bit of shopping, a few more visits to fine ale houses (to get out of the sporadic bouts of light to heavy rainfall) and a few more touristy photo ops, I walked back to the B&B and flopped onto one of my four beds.

My legs throbbed. I had probably walked about ten to fifteen miles up and along the winding streets, finding more Ghost Shop signs and pottering around the various charity shops (the idea being, if the stuff they give to the museum is that awesome what do they donate to the charity shops? Answer - fuck all.. unless you want to pay for thse free CDs that were on the front of the Daily Express a few years back?), I was absolutely worn out at 6pm. 

I got up to have a shower, and in the words of Maroon 5 (ft Christina Aguilera) I began to "Move Like Jagger" - that is I pottered around gingerly like a man nearing his seventies who looks like he's had a coconut inserted up him at some point.

Back into town, after a wee nap, I continued to eavesdrop and drink fine ales.... and tweet. 

After mentioning the booty I got from the offices of the Whitby Gazette to @Sturdygirl0803 I accidentally got into a conversation with the Editor of the aforementioned organ! 

We exchanged jokey messages and I assured him I wasn't there to take the piss out of Whitby. He replied that he knew, as he'd already read my blog!

In the end he offered me a job writing a column.... 

YES YOU DID, , I HAVE WITNESSES!!

Now, this is where I have to apologise. I thought, in my drunken state, that tweeting an album of pics would do the whole thing in one go. I didn't realise that anyone following me would get about 40 individual messages with pics of Whitby spamming up their tubes.

Still, as I found out, there are a lot worse things to see.

The next day I decided to pop to nearby Scarborough on the way home.... fucking hell.

Let's just say someone should tell Jeremy Kyle his audience have escaped. It's like a huge open-air Wetherspoons full of rat-faced boys and blighted, crestfallen old people. I decided to leave when I saw a drunk man hold on to his wig with one hand try to chase the loose Rizlas that had escaped from his other hand  down the street in the wind.

It was 11.45am. 

Sheesh! What a toilet. 

I'll say one good thing about Scarborough - it made me really, REALLY appreciate Whitby.



So that's it. 

My Whitby adventure over.

Not much happened, I got drunk and mocked the locals, they offered to have gay sex with me or ignored me to look at their favourite trees, I got wet, I was out-manouvered by a swan in the street, had to come back early because the place is shut on Sundays, I infiltrated the highest echelons of their media by tweeting about a sticky fruit cake, I was barred from entering a ruin and I finally saw my first Goth just as I was leaving.

I've had worse weekends.

I hope you enjoyed his nonsense.
Thanks to everyone who kept me sane. x



NORMAL RANTY-SWEARY SERVICE WILL RESUME NEXT TIME....


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24.1.12

WHATBY? (Part Two)

NOTE TO NEW READERS:

If this is your first visit to my Musings then you may wish to start with last week's post first. This one would still make sense, of a sorts, but it's best to see where the madness stems before embarking on this trippy trip.


Also, if anything is highlighted in BLUE then that sends you to a separate link for a little background information. Anything highlighted in YELLOW is simply for emphasis. 


Enjoy!



So. I went to Whitby.

Or rather, I stumbled into Whitby. I finished work at 1am and set my alarm for 7am in order to finish packing and be on the 8.53am train. Thankfully my insomnia made it almost completely unnecessary for me to set my alarm and I watched the digits on my phone slowly, oh-so-slowly, count-up from 1.30am to 7am.


A the last minute I decided not to pack my laptop as I thought it would be too distracting of Whitby's charms if I had the Internet at hand, besides, I didn't want to spend all my time in the B&B typing away. Those of you that followed me on Twitter probably wished I'd left the phone at home too, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

After a three and a half hour train journey that stopped off in Middlesborough and then took in ever 1950's themed train station in between, I finally got to Whitby. The first thing I saw was a faded shop sign painted on the wall of an estate agents.

I love these. I collect them. I call them Ghost Shops.

This was a sign.


Well, obviously, it WAS  a sign.

But it was also a SIGN.

I was immediately won over. I went for a wander across Whitby Bridge and into the old town, past the offices of the Whitby Gazette and almost immediately found the White Horse & Griffin that had been recommended to me (see last posting). This too was a sign.

Yes, yes, it WAS a sign. A sign that said White Horse & Griffin - look, we're going to get nowhere if you're taking everything I say so bloody literally....

I popped in, sat down, ordered my beer-battered fish & chunky chips with REAL mushy peas, opened my Wodehouse novel, poured myself a cup of tea and soaked in the atmosphere. I could smell and feel the proper wood fire and hear the strains of Strauss playing low in the background.

This couldn't be more British if I was wearing a bowler hat.
(Which I definitely am going to buy one day).


OK, I suppose Vaughan Williams would have been a bit more British but like I said a moment ago, don't take things so literally...

Then Vivaldi came on and made me feel like I was on-hold with the council ready to complain about bin-collections... Dammit, Vivaldi, you're not spoiling this!

After a fantastic lunch (topped off with a wonderful creme brulee) I looked for my reservation confirmation... and realised I had slid that into my laptop case. Which I hadn't brought with me as it was wrapped around my laptop.
Which was on my bed.
In Leeds.

Not Whitby.

And I couldn't remember the name of the B&B. Nor had I written it down. Why would I? I had already printed off the confirmation notice. I also discovered that I couldn't access that email on my phone, for some inexplicable reason.

So here I am, suitcase in hand, stuck on the streets of Whitby.

What would Jason Bourne do?

Rejecting the idea of hacking into the offices of the Whitby Gazette or kidnapping one of the bar staff to drive around Germany in a Mini, I went to an Internet cafe, somehow and inexplicably recovered the email and wandered off to seek my accommodation.


After a quick walk around the Quayside and down by the harbour to look at the ships bobbing on the sea, I picked up a street map and walked off in the general direction of my lodgings, not knowing how far it really was but not willing to let a taxi driver make up his off-season shortfall by driving me all around town before dropping me about 20 yards up the hill.

I saw an old lady approaching and stopped her for more precise directions. When I mentioned the street name she looked at me a bit bewildered and annoyed:

"Sorry? What? I'm sorry?" she then paused and looked away "Sorry, I was looking at my favourite tree..."

She was.
She was staring at a tree.

I left them to it.

Finding the B&B was a bittersweet experience.

On the one hand it was very easy to find.
On the other it was a bit bland.
On the one hand it was well signposted.
On the other, the next door neighbours had a LIFE-SIZE DRACULA IN THEIR GARDEN!!


Aw, man. That looks so much cooler!

I tried to check in for about 15 minutes, but the landlord (I presumed?) was absolutely baffled by the fact that his Guest House had started a new Diary, what with this being January, and as he sat on the step scratching his head I had to tell him to thumb back to the January date and look at the bit that had my name and room number on it.

He laughed and asked if I wanted a job.

He then went through the rules. No smoking in the hotel, breakfast at 8.30am, the TV only gets the five terrestrial channels - "...Well, four, Channel Five is a bit fuzzy... oh, and and you can't get BBC2 if it rains. So three channels..." - no loud noises after 11pm and the red key opens the main door.

I went to my room, which was quite big (I'd booked a double as it was only £5 more) and had two single beds as well as a bunk-bed in the corner next to the aforementioned TV, which was the size of a child's dice.

Despite being advertised as a "music-themed" B&B I could see no evidence of this. It was more "Oxfam-themed". The two floors below housed an odd collection of Forever Friends teddies, some hippy glass-blowings, a couple of pine wardrobes and some "ethnic" art prints.

Inside the room, above the bed was this...


Possibly meant to make me homesick for West Yorkshire?

Or just to get me out of the room?

It certainly worked.

I got out of the room sharpish. I unpacked, put my coat back on and walked straight into a gale. The wind and rain lashed and howled as I walked back to the old town.

Most of it was closed because it's off season. I'd noticed earlier that everyone seemed to be re-painting their signs and replacing old furniture, many of the shops and stalls were closed, some of the pubs had just one customer (an old lady rooting around her copper purse looking for enough for another sherry), there were very few lights on in town.... and I had yet to see a single Goth.

Do they hibernate?
Not in Winter though?
Surely Goths hibernate during Summer?

Anyway, I went to a pub called the Endeavour and sat by the open fire, drying out my coat on a chair and listening to other people's conversations. It's quite an impolite thing to do, to eavesdrop, but when you're on your own it is difficult not to.

Normally I would have some conversation to be part of, but here I just listened to a middle-aged couple discussing the merits of various other Whitby pubs (specifically their attention to stoking a good coal fire) and the four or five young fishermen at the bar, fresh from work.

Well, I say fresh... they had worked with fish all day.

Each round they bought, they put the spare change in the RNLI box on the counter and at first were talking about the different kinds of RNLI boxes they'd seen when they were kids. The wooden ones with a little lifeboat that came down a ramp when you put 2p in it, the sailor that waved... and then I remembered the two boats I'd seen from the harbour earlier that afternoon, their blazing lights on-full on a such a grey day, swaying, rising and dropping feet at a time, tilting at massive 40 degree angles in a ferocious murky sea.

I could only imagine the unrelenting danger of their daily work.

I saw that these young men's whole lives from children to now had been dominated by something that we landlubbers patronisingly come and stick our tootises in once a year. If it's not too nippy. I could see why they gave their spare money to the RNLI.

It's quite likely they may need them one day.

Them, or one of their friends.


Speaking of which, one of them loudly snapped me out of my reverie with this little nugget:

"I do love Knobhead Anthony... but he has got his problems.."

Well, yes - I thought.
His fucking name for a kick-off

Whoops. Time to go.

It's only a matter of time before the fresh sea air, the air of wistful melancholy and industrial strength Real Ale makes my mouth a legitimate target for salty sea fists.

(NB: Salty sea fists are the worst type to be hit by. Not only can they cut you, but they realllly sting afterwards an' all...)

I bundled up my toasty-warm coat, necked my ale, put on my gloves and hat and headed off.

Outside, an angry swan blocked the pavement.

After a tense stand-off between a tipsy idiot and a massive bird that, as we all know, CAN BREAK YOUR ARM WITH IT'S WING, I slowly started to make my back to the B&B.

I walked past another pub, The Black Swan, and overheard the joshing smokers.

"It was a lad's night, if you know what I'm sayin'?"
"Yeah, there was no women. You went and fucked blokes.... Again."

They all laughed.

One of the joshers spotted me on my phone, all lit up like a drunken tourist.


"'Ere mate? You want a bumming?"

It wasn't said in an aggressive way, nor was it furtive or secretive. It was an out-and-out question.
Literally out-and-out.

I politely declined his kind offer.

I'd only been in Whitby ten hours.

And besides, it was only Thursday.

Let's see what docks tomorrow....


(CONCLUDES NEXT TIME...)


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18.1.12

WHATBY?

Every now and again I have a bout of insomnia that lasts about two days, making me a tad grumpy and not a little delirious. I've mentioned before how I start to ask myself odd questions or imagine celebrities who were separated from their "twins".

Well now my stupid bloody brain has gone one better.

About three weeks ago I awoke very suddenly at 3am (having only got to bed about 1.30am) I sat bolt upright and murmured the words - "I haven't been to Whitby in ages."

What?

Whitby?

Whatby??

What the hell??

I looked around the darkened room. What the hell was I talking about? It's true that I haven't been to Whitby since I was a kid, but then again I haven't thought about Whitby in years. Why was I thinking about Whitby all of a sudden? I haven't even heard anyone talking about Whitby, seen any programmes about Whitby, hummed any songs about Whitby. What the hell was going on?

I then stayed awake for at least another three hours thinking about Whitby.

I remembered going camping with my family as a kid, I remembered trying to put the tent up in a force 10 gale, I remember my Dad taking a picture of me and my two brothers laid across the canvas trying to stop it escaping into the sea. I also remember my Mum deciding that two nights in a tent with three excitable little boys on a cliff edge in a hurricane "wasn't a bloody holiday" and us coming back, after we'd had some fish and chips and been up to the Abbey to see if we could spot Dracula in his transmogrified form.


But all that was over thirty years ago. Why the chuff was I thinking about Whitby now?

I haven't got anything against Whitby, if anything it brought back fond memories. I'm sure it is every bit as lovely as I remembered it, and I hear that the locals are very friendly and accommodating towards the Goth community, which can only be a good thing.

I bloody love Goths, me!

Eventually I drifted off and had a lovely Whitby-free sleep.

I thought no more about it until a couple of night's later when around the same time, three a.m., I murmured into my pillow - "I really should look at visiting Whitby."

I opened my eyes.

WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??

Are the Whitby tourism board using subliminal advertising?
Why am I obsessing about Whitby?
Why am I arguing with myself?

What the hell is my stupid brain playing at??

The next day I mentioned it to a couple of colleagues and my beautiful tiny girlfriend, none of whom had visited, talked or thought of Whitby in ages too. One old chum told me she loved the place, another sent me a link to a virtual tour of Whitby and another recommended a pub called The White Horse & Griffin for me to visit... when I go.


I laughed it off. They were right to take the piss. It was all a bit ridiculous.

That night I could NOT sleep. I lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling. I fluffed up my pillows, straightened the duvet, rolled around trying to get the optimal comfy spot, got up, had a drink of water, got back in bed, thought about Whitby....

NYYYAAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!

NOT THIS AGAIN, BRAIN?

WHAT IS YOUR OBSESSION WITH WHITBY, YOU SLIMY GREY BASTARD?

You should check train times. I bet you can get some cheap rates in a B&B seeing as it's out-of-season.

SHUT UP!!

You've got some leave due from work. Aren't you booked off next week?

I KNOW, BUT IT'S ASHA'S BIRTHDAY. I'M GOING TO GO TO THAT LONDON, HAVE A NIGHT OUT WITH HER.

In that London?

YES. I THOUGHT I'D MAKE A LONG WEEKEND OF IT. MAYBE GO AND SEE THE NEW WEST END PRODUCTION OF THE LADYKILLERS.

What?

IT'S MY FAVOURITE EVER FILM. I LAST SAW IT WITH ASHA ON THE BIG-SCREEN TEN YEARS AGO AND WE GOT TO MEET HERBERT LOM.

You share a birthday with him...

I KNOW! ANYWAY, THIS NEW STAGE VERSION HAS GOT PETER CAPALDI IN IT.

Ooh. I like him.

AND HIM FROM "ARMSTRONG AND MILLER".

The one off the Pimm's adverts?

NO. THE OTHER ONE...

Meh....

GRAHAM LINEHAN HAS ADAPTED IT.

Nice.


NOW FUCK OFF ABOUT WHITBY!!!

I lay in my bed as the sun shone on my curtains and the birds sang. A new day had begun and I'd spent the night thinking of nothing but Whitby.

I stumbled through my working day, having caught about an hour's sleep in the afternoon, and zombied my way back home that night, walking the three miles from work to my home in an attempt to feel as mentally tired as I was physically.

I got home, somehow, and cannot recall a time when I had ever been as tired before in my life.

I went to my room and as the wind outside howled and I could see the silhouette of the trees thrash across my curtains. I slumped into bed and closed my eyes. Sleep. Please.

Hello!


RIGHT!!!
FUCK THIS!!!

I sat up, powered up my laptop, swore at my brain, kicked the quilt about a bit and angrily punched at the keyboard...

The upshot of all of this is that I go to Whitby on Thursday morning.

On my own.
Whitby.
In North Yorkshire.
The North Yorkshire coast.
In the middle of January.
For three days.
Whitby.

Not London.

Whitby.

Fuck's sake.

No. I don't know why either. I can't explain it to my beautiful tiny girlfriend, I don't know anyone there, I haven't been in years and I have no idea what I'll do when I get there.



I just want some fucking sleep.


Ah, who knows, it could be fun?



Watch this space...



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12.1.12

I'M AFRAID OF AMERICANS

I've never been to the United States of America - and now I don't think I ever will.

It's not that I am anti-American, that's a level of commitment I simply cannot be arsed with, it's just that I know I'd be disappointed.

After years and years of American popular culture, from Disney to Scorsese, Elvis to Levis, Kermit to Coke, we've imported the very best from the US and it has made our lives a bit more glamorous.

America has sold the dream of the American Dream all over the world, it is their No1 export. Blue-jeaned, cola-drinking, rock n' roll-lovin', lip-smackin' great-tastin', finger-lickin' Freedom, that's the American Way.

From Honest Abe to Superman there's little not to love in the ideals of Truth, Justice and The American Way.



Which makes a week like this even more depressing than it is.

After years of espousing the merits of democracy and freedom, and countless wars buoyed by the skewed notion of imposing that very democracy and freedom, America will be marking the tenth anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay holding facility - a disgusting affront to anyone who believes in the concept of justice.

Guantanamo Bay was once a paradise - you may remember it from the song "Gunatanamera", a patriotic Cuban love song that has since been defiled by many a boorish football terrace chant - but is now more famous for it's extrajudicial detainment and attraction facility, Camp X-Ray.


Camp X-Ray sounds rather fun on the face of it.

Like an adventure park that junior would-be spies would see advertised in a comic book or a procedure overseen by Kenneth Williams in a Carry On film.

Hoowever, it is actually a shameful and despicable place that defies the Geneva convention, adds legitimacy and fuel to America's ideological enemies, shames their President, their military and their Allies.

Which includes us.
Britain.

Many people are still being held illegally in this facility, nicknamed Gitmo, and many are interred without the prospect of a trial, some have reportedly been tortured, almost all are unrepresented. It is the kind of situation that, if committed by any other regime, would fire up the Americans to mount a military offensive.

However, this is an American regime, one that vowed to close the camp, and it is simply offensive.


UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY, GITMO ... 
YOUR PRESENCE SHAMES US ALL.


And speaking of shame, the Republican Party leadership race is underway with a handful of white billionaire candidates seeking the opposition party's nomination to tackle President Obama in the US General election in ten months time.

That's right.
Ten months.
Almost a full fucking year.


You think our elections are nasty and long, man alive! You ain't seen nothin' yet!

As I have said before,I love American humour and I absolutely love watching programmes like The Daily Show & The Colbert Report as their political satire is both whip-smart funny and devastatingly incisive.

They are going to make this Race To The White House unmissable!


Whereas British satirists like to simply Tipp-Ex out John Prescott's name and replace with Eric Pickles' name on their Bumper Book of Fat Jokes, the US satirists really do their homework.

They often know a LOT more about the issues than the would-be elected officials.

They are so good that in South Carolina the comedian and faux-pundit Stephen Colbert has 5% of the public vote - putting him ahead of one of the nominees without him even standing for election!


It's no wonder he's doing so well. Take a look at the remaining candidates.

All men. All white. All religious. All wealthy.

There's very little to choose between them. They offer no real alternative to one another, except in their degree of hatred for one another.

In the lead we have Mitt Romney who appears to be a cast-member from an Am-Dram production of The West Wing who has somehow stumbled into the race for the Presidency because if you screw your eyes up he looks a bit like Martin Sheen - whilst making pronouncements like Charlie Sheen.

His latest is that in light of huge military budget cuts America should spend it's way out of trouble and that he would preside over a military so big that "no-one would ever dare threaten us."

And he's seen as a bit of a Liberal!

Among the others we have the hate-filled egomaniac Newt Gingrich, a man with all the humility of a West Coast rapper who is routinely labelled as an out-of-control power-crazy loon by people who used to work with him. He is standing on a Family Values ticket, something two of his three wives may have some issue with, seeing as they were cheated on by him.


Then there is Rick Santorum, a name that sounds like it belongs to a heavy rock star in a Disney Channel kids show - "Hey man! We got tickets to see Rick Sanatorum! Gnarly!" - but looks like a tiny face being projected on a much larger egg that is doing a Terry Wogan impression. Or, for older readers, Latka from Taxi.

There's Ron Paul, Mr Magoo as played Sir Ian McKellen, who likes to yell strange things at rallies such as "I look forward to the day we can all say We Are Austrians Now!"



Then there is Jon Huntsman, who is likely to have thrown in the towel by the time you read this. He is hampered by the fact that he was the US Ambassador to China under President Obama and so has actually worked with the two most powerful nations on earth.

Fucking elitist!

And then there is Rick Perry. I don't know why, but there is.

I can only assume that The Daily Show's Jon Stewart is correct when he said that most people who vote for Perry think they are voting for George W. Bush as played by Josh Brolin


They seem to disagree with one another on virtually every subject, although most of the candidate DO agree on three - terrorists are bad, everybody must gang up on Mitt Romney... oh, and gays are an abomination.

I have never seen so many democratically elected officials denounce homosexuality with such passion as in these televised debates and press conferences. It is thoroughly shameful and disgusting the language being used and the accusations being made.

From Gingrich telling gay voters to "Vote Obama" rather than taint his campaign to Santorum drawing parallels with bestiality and paedophilia, it is portraying America at its most bigoted and bullying worst.



(NB: Santorum's long-held opinions have so outraged people that his surname has now been appropriated as slang for a rather messy by-product of gay sex. Look away now if you don't want the definiton...)


I'm not going to waste time qualifying my own position by saying "some of my best friends are gay" because quite frankly if, in the 21st Century, in a multi-cultural society, in a western democracy, you do not have SOME gay friends then you ought to be ashamed of yourself and quite frankly I do not want to fucking know you.

How can you possibly seek to represent the Nation when you want to shun a section of society?

As another famous former-Republican elected official recently said:


In other words, you are a fucking disgrace to yourself, your country and whatever political party you claim to represent.

You certainly don't deserve to be a politician and your blind hatred towards people who love one another due to your deference to what you interpret your God to mean borders on a mental instability that should preclude you from being electable.

You also sound an awful lot like the religous extremists you pretend to be ideological opposed to...


I don't know who will win the Republican Nomination to stand against Obama, but it troubles me that their horrible views could easily be misinterpreted as those of the majority of a country that I was brought up to love and admire.

America has so many things to love about itself, I don't understand why it is showcasing it's hatred.


There's a desire to replicate the homsepun wisdom and down-to-earth, man-of-the-people vibe as so perfectly encapsulated by multi-millionaire former Hollywood star Ronald Reagan. Many of the candidates reference him as an idol and an inspiration and adopt a similar folksy patter.

Well, I'm not sure about you but I don't want a fucking yokel in the White House.

What's wrong with having an articulate Commander In Chief?

Since when did the most Powerful Man On Earth have to be a fucking redneck??

I doubt Reagan would be quite as complimentary about what these pretenders are doing to his legacy - in fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he didn't try and warn the rest of us about the fucking nutjobs who have inherited  his mantle...



"Mr Gorbachev, I say to you, BUILD UP THAT WALL!!"




Ah, well.
They say a week is a long time in politics.

We've still ten more months of this anal-anche of bat-shittery to come...So buckle up, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.


I give it another four months until large swathes of the American public march on Guantanamo - and demand to be taken in!


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9.1.12

SATURDAY NIGHT'S ALRIGHT FOR WHINING...

I went out on Saturday night in my hometown of Wakefield which, if you've ever been to Wakefield on a Saturday night, is not the wisest of moves. Wakefield has one main road through it's city centre that is rammed with pubs and bars.

Anywhere and everywhere is a bar.

My first bank is a bar, the offices where my Dad used to work is a bar, the bank I transferred my account to is a bar, the bar I used to work in is now three bars...

It's not just the banks and Victorian insurance offices that are bars, that's the same anywhere in the country, but in Wakefield even the tiny tobacconists and the greasy spoon have been turned into bars.

And they are directly opposite one another.

You cannot walk more than 10 yards down Westgate Road without seeing a weeping divorcee or a shirtless buffoon after 9pm, as this video by Wakefield singer Matt Abbott documented so well.

Evidently he sees more poetry and beauty in the place than I do, but then again he is a poet....


I just see dead drunk people...

Anyway, I went to meet my old mate Thom (you remember, There's One In Every Town) as he'd blown me out for New Year's Eve drinks last week to sit in with his girlfriend and watch Conversations With A Serial Killer.

And who am I to stand in the way of love's young dream?

Happily, this rescheduled weekend coincided with another friend, Helen, having her birthday drinks in the same bar.

While chatting to Helen's new boyfriend we got on the subject of clothes - yeah, men talk about clothes too, y'know. We're not all sport-obsessed, Nuts-reading Top Gear-enthusiasts, some of us like to dress a bit sharp.

It's not always appreciated though.

I remember about ten years ago going for a job interview. As I walked through town at 8am in my very modish thin black suit, two homeless men sharing a plastic bottle of refreshment yelled out "Oooh! Suits you, sir!"

Heckled!
On my sartorial stylings.
By the fucking homeless.

And just where the fuck had they been catching up on episodes of the fucking Fast Show??

Another time, I was visiting my Gran and as I stepped off the bus in my pin-striped waistcoat, bootcut black jeans, crisp white shirt and skinny tie, a small boy went past on his toy scooter.

As he eagerly propelled himself forward, eyes fixed on the pavement, he zipped by and, without looking up, yelled - "YOU LOOK LIKE A TWAT!"

Thank you, young urchin.
Little shit.

And the very last time I was in Wakefield, just before Christmas, I was stood with my mate Bryn as a drunk came out of the bar and looked us up and down - me in my Crombie & skinny tie combo, Bryn in his light grey suit. Finally, Stumble McPissed-Up said:

"Gotta say, you boys look sharp. Very Mod. Very ska. 
Y'do right... 


Fuck fashion - that's what I say!"


Um.. Thank you?
What?

It's true though, I have turned my back on fashion. Not that I was fully facing in the right direction before, but I've gone back to simple styles. Adidas superstar trainers, 501s, parkas, thin ties, polo shirts, two-buttoned suits, tank-tops, Harrington jackets, Doc Martens - practically all the stuff I was wearing as a schoolboy 30 years ago!

Which is a vast improvement on the stuff I wore at college just 20 years ago.

Spot The Difference

Sweet Jesus.
The 90's were like a collective fashion amnesty.

I blame grunge.

Anyway, back to this weekend, and while we were chatting the subject of the disappointing New Year's Sales came up. Now, I went into Next on Boxing Day, not from 6am like some idiots, but at a reasonable time in the afternoon. Despite the rails and floor looking like a passing tsunami had popped in to check out the chinos.

As I wandered around, half-heartedly picking through the same identical tops in brown/blue/black/grey it occurred to me that men's fashion has lost it's way. 


Everyone dresses the same. It's all lumberjack shirts and Superdry t-shirts. Trousers are either non-descript or have legs shaped like a horse-shoe, tapering to two inches at the bottom and billowing like a circus performer's at the top.

The only person who could wear trousers like these would be MC Hammer, and only then if he was being used as the frame for the World Champion Gurner to poke his contorted face through.




The other fellas in the bar agreed with me.

Whatever happened to looking sharp?

Who thinks a baseball cap is acceptable in a country that has no baseball teams?

Why is it that no-one in JJB Sports looks like they can run five yards without suffering a massive heart-attack?

Why is the fucking Snood back in shops?


Then Alistair said something that upped the conversation a notch:

"Helen won't let me get a cravat."

There was a slight pause, and then one by one we revealed that OUR girlfriends have stopped us from buying equally resplendent garments, not explicitly but implicitly.


Like PG Wodehouse's Jeeves considering his master's plus-fours or straw-boater, it would appear that our girlfriends have learnt some secret trick to make us feel ashamed of wanting to buy cravats (Alistair), cuff-links (me and Alistair), Edwardian frock-coats (me), bowler hats (me again), stetsons (Thom) and sword sticks (absolutely fucking everyone).


Twenty first century British men have lost the art of dressing well. There are one or two who still look good in a suit, but more often than not a man in a suit looks dowdy and downhearted. It's a uniform of conformity, a badge of blandness, it's signals "I am an office drone and they make me wear this.."

The elegance and style of icons such as Cary Grant are a distant memory as young men emulate the shambolic hipster-look that makes them all dress like their father's did in the late 70's.

Only now they are supposedly ironic.



Well, sod it.

I don't want to look like a homeless fucking lumberjack or one of those bands that Uncut magazine thinks are going to be the next big thing but never are.


 (btw, there appears to be something wrong with this months Uncut magazine's CD. I've checked but there doesn't seen to be any Wilco on it. Are they ill?)

I'm not going back to dressing like we did in the Nineties.
I've learnt my lesson. It's time to straighten up and look sharp....


I'm getting a bowler hat.


Although, fuck knows when I'm ever going to wear it.

One things for certain - it won't be down Westgate on a Saturday night.




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